Brand Obsession: Too Faced

I haven't fallen in love with a brand this hard since I found Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation about 4 years ago. When I was in New York in June, I was very taken with Too Faced and purchased many items from the range to try out. The brand is all about being glamourous but none of the products are heavy and cakey. This pretty much my own beauty philosophy- enhance what you have!

I fell head over heels in love with Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer, so much so that I chucked out my previously beloved Hoola Bronzer by Benefit. It is funny how something can be holy grail until something better comes along!

The Too Faced Better Than Sex* mascara is easily the best mascara I have ever tried. Since using it, I've had so many questions about whether I am wearing lash extensions. This hugely extends the volume in my lashes and leaves them looking ultra-black and super glossy. The formula is really key to this amazing mascara and it has changed my opinion on more expensive mascaras. 

Lastly, the Chocolate Bar eyeshadow palette* has made me shun all other eyeshadows for the past month. The shadows are made with a cocoa powder (like the Chocolate bronzer) and are ultra pigmented. All of shadows are neutrals that can be toned down for day or seriously glommed up for night. There is a mirror inside the palette which makes application much easier. I would honestly recommend this palette to everyone- it will suit all eye colours and can be used for all occasions. It's also perfect for travelling. 

Here's to a long relationship with an amazing brand- I can't wait to see what Too Faced bring out next.

*PR Samples

The 5 minute face

Uni life has returned and it's anything to let me have 10 minutes extra in bed before a 9.15 lecture. Something that surprised people when they meet me is often my lack of make-up! If I am having a good skin day, all I wear is mascara. I encourage people to go makeup free- it is really freeing and it actually improves your skin by letting your skin having a wee break! Even one day a week will make a great difference ( I usually try to go for a big walk around the beach on my makeup free day!).

However, for my weary wee face on a Monday morning, I have devised the perfect five minute face that requires no brushes! It's easy, light-weight but still enough coverage. Firstly, I apply Bioderma Sensibio BB cream. This is the best BB cream I've tried. It blends easily with your fingers and has medium coverage. Do not bring this up under your eyes- I learned quickly that it likes to crease a little bit! I sort out my under-eye bags with the Maybelline Age Rewind Eraser. The serum like texture means it blends beautifully. To give my cheeks a little lift, I use Benefit's Fine One One for a little bit of glow and colour. The cream formula glides on to the cheeks straight from the packaging. A great alternative to this is the NYC Cosmetics BB Creme Blush Stick- very cheap but a great product none the less! I put on lashings of Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara (maybe the best mascara EVER!). You can put loads of this on and it doesn't clump. It's also great for bottom lashes. Finally, to make me look a little more put together, I use a little bit of By Terry Ombre Blackstar in 13 Brown Perfection over my eyelid. Somedays I also use this as a liner along my bottom lashes- the intensity can be built up really easily. If By Terry is a little pricey for you, the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil or the GOSH Forever Eyeshadow Sticks are great alternatives.

Let me know your quick morning fixes in the comments below or @GemmaLEBond

My Favourite Places in Belfast: St. George's Market

Photos by Photography by Astrid
At the weekend, there is one place I love to go in the city. It's also the one place I always tell anyone to visit if they are coming to Belfast for the first time. I'm of course talking about the iconic St. George's Market. Over the past number of years, there has been a huge regeneration of the market with a mix of really interesting food and funky items on offer along with the traditional fruit, vegetables, meat and fish that the market is well known for. 

One of my favourite stalls to visit at the market is run by my friend Jeff. His amazing designs called "Belfast Times" (yes, the same man behind the blog!) are always such fun. Inspired by Andy Warhol and typography, his prints feature classic Belfast sayings, legendary people and buildings. They look beautiful framed as a gift. I also love the cards which make the best gift!

Let me know what you love to visit at St George's Market below or by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond.

My Favourite Places in Belfast: City Hall

Photo credit: Photography by Astrid
If there is one iconic place in Belfast, it's the City Hall. Well known for it's blue roof, the City Hall is home to the Mayor, daily weddings, civil ceremonies and at Christmas, the Continental Markets. I was walking a few weeks ago to meet a friend and parked at the back of the City Hall. I realised how under appreciated it is! From the back, the building looks so European and governmental. Business in the back, party in the front as they say! 

I also love the outfit I am wearing in this shot. It goes so well with the flowers. My shirt is from Replay, trousers are from Next and shoes are from New Look. It is such a fun look that would be great from work to party. 

My Favourite Places in Belfast: Corn Market

All picture credit: Photography by Astrid

I love when other creative people come up with fabulous ideas. I was recently approached by the lovely Photography by Astrid to take some snaps of my favourite Belfast locations. I have divided the shots up into four different locations. I had so much fun taking these with Astrid- she was so easy to work with and make a anxious me feel much better. 

My first favourite location in Belfast is Corn Market. This is the little area before you walk into Victoria Square. It has always been special to me because of my regular Saturday visits to Belfast with my grandparents. Before Victoria Square existed, there was a really run down old arcade type shopping centre. My grandparents loved the furniture store in there so Corn Market is somewhere we would frequently pass by. Now, Corn Market is a hustle and bustle of people. The city has changed so much in past 10 years and the sculpture in the middle always has people waiting on friends, playing music or eating their lunch. There are so many cool shops in the surrounding area- Dr. Martens, Joules, Jigsaw, Jack Wills, Kiehl's... and that's before you even go into the shopping centre.

My outfit consists of a Topshop top and scarf, Next trousers, H&M sunglasses and a bag that was a gift from my mum. 

Stay tuned as I share the rest of my favourite Belfast locations shot by Photography by Astrid. 

Bargain Skin Buys

I was always under the illusion that I couldn't use many drug store products because of my sensitive skin. How wrong was I!? The drugstore products have really upped their game and I have found fabulous products which are also cost effective. 

Firstly, Clearasil Superfruits Refreshing pads were recommended in a video I watched of the amazing skincare goddess Caroline Hirons. Clearasil is a brand I haven't looked at since my early teen years and it is something I always associate with heavily acne prone skin. However, she suggested these little pads as an everyday toner solution. They smell great, contain salicylic acid to keep the spots at bay and don't feel harsh on the skin. I have been able to use them morning and night after cleansing. My skin has been looking great- really refreshed and any breakouts have been minimal and moved along very quickly. Hooray! These are an absolute bargain (you get 65 pads for around the £4 mark) and would be great for all sorts of skin type. 

Secondly, something I have huge problems with is moisturiser. With my sensitive skin I have found that moisturiser will be the first thing to break me out. They can often be too greasy which I think causes problems. I have tried lots of the Nivea Daily Essentials range (the eye makeup remover is the BEST ever!) so I thought I would try the sensitive day and night creams. It is very rare that I have seen drugstore products targeted towards sensitive skin so I was intrigued. I have found these to be really nourishing and they haven't broken me out. The creams are paraben free- another great aspect for a bargain product. The Day Cream is very light and sits very nicely under my makeup. It also contains an SPF 15 which is good protection on a daily basis. The Night Cream is a little heavier but still sinks in very quickly without feeling greasy. Again these both retail for just over £4 but they are frequently on offer meaning that you can pick up both for an absolute steal!

Tweet me and let me know of any drugstore skin loves at @GemmaLEBond.

My first microdermabrasion experience at Destination Skin

I have always wanted to try microdermabrasion so when the opportunity arose for me to try it at Destination Skin in House of Fraser, I was over the moon. The skin clinic is located at the back of the beauty floor and has been running since the store opened. Even to me, it felt like a surprise to see how many rooms they had- it was as if it had been hiding from me for all these years!

The clinic is very professional and medical. It's not a spa- it is there to treat skin concerns. Lisa looked after me for my treatment and as it was my first visit, I filled out all the necessary paperwork and she discussed what would be happening in my microdermabrasion session. I had a skin consultation where we talked about my health and my skin concerns. I opted for microdermabrasion as I have always wanted to try to lift some scaring I have from previous acne outbreaks. Lisa explained to me that with regular peels and microdermabrasion, they would lift really easily. She did a skin analysis which I was a bit worried about. I try my best to keep my face out of the sun and keep my skin hydrated. My head was placed under a special light with a mirror so I could see where the damage was. I was pleased as I was told I had very good, well hydrated skin with hardly any damage. The only area of concern was around my eyes which was a little dehydrated.

With this in mind, Lisa proceeded with my treatment. Microdermbrasion often scares people but I can assure you that it does not hurt. I actually laughed during bits of it as it's a bit like your face being hoovered!  Microdermabrasion is a deep exfoliating treatment using vacuum and crystal technology.  The crystals are delivered at high speed to the surface of the skin and immediately vacuumed away, this technology removes the top layer of dead skin cells, revealing new, living cells restoring a healthy, refreshed glow.   In addition the epidermis layer of the skin is rejuvenated, meaning collagen production is stimulated leaving your skin feeling plumped, minimising the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Obviously for me, the lines and wrinkles were not the issue. I saw microdermabrasion as a more thorough facial which would help my scars to lift as I have been treating them at home with some improvement over the past few months. Lisa was able to do numerous "passes" (basically going over the same area) on my skin as although it is sensitive, microdermabrasion is fine for even the most sensitive of skins. 

The treatment was really great and it was over very quickly. I was in and out in 45 minutes with glowing skin, after having a vitamin C mask,  moisturiser and SPF applied. The Obagi range which was used on my skin smelled amazing. A lot of the products used can be bought but some of it is very much "prescription only" product. Below is a picture of my skin the day after my treatment. I think my scars are greatly reduced and my overall skin appearance looks more even. I think with more treatments I would be able to completely reduce the scars.

I had an amazing first experience at Destination Skin. Microdermabrasion starts at £75 per treatment. To book an appointment with the Belfast salon, call 0284 142 4500 or visit the website

The Clarisonic Aria- is it worth the money?

I am fanatical about looking after my skin. I really dream about having the perfect celeb skin and I am constantly trying new products in order to achieve this. One of the newest skin devices on the block, the Clarisonic Aria, aims to help improve your skin by aiding deep exfoliation. It is described as a "sonic skin" cleaning system. It aims to cleanse skin 6X better than manual cleansing and help reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines & wrinkles meaning that makeup sits better and products absorb better. The device "pulses" rather than rotating like people often expect. 

I bought a Clarisonic Mia over 2 years ago and it is still growing strong (and is now being used by my mother). The kind people at Clarisonic gifted me with a new Clarisonic Aria to see what I thought of the device. There have been many dupes appear on the market over the past few months and I have tested this throughly so I can give you a fair review. Firstly, I prefer this to the Clarisonic Mia. The Aria feels much nicer to hold in your hand and it feels much more sturdy. The Aria also has three adjustable speeds which is also different from the Mia, along with a timer for 1 minute so that you don't get carried away! I have been using my Aria about twice weekly, usually on the highest setting. I have found that this is the best amount to use it for me as I would be prone to dryness in areas and using it anymore than this can aggrevate things. I use the Clarisonic as a skin treat rather than a daily cleansing device. I believe this is how it should be seen as it could be too abrasive if over-used. I use the Aria with usually a gel based cleanser and follow this with an acid toner.

I have found that my skin texture has really improved. My pores and blackheads have greatly reduced and I think the Clarisonic is great to actually draw out any acne/spots which I currently have. It has helped to keep my skin in great condition and feeling smoother.

The Clarisonic Aria currently retails for £155 and I think it is worth it. It's the price of 3 good facials and it allows you to have a facial, deep cleansing experience at home. 

There is now a Clarisonic counter in House of Fraser Belfast- make sure to go check the numerous devices out for yourself!

Perfect pout with NYC's new Lip Lacquers

Apparently normal lipsticks are old hat because every brand on the market seems to be coming up with a lip lacquer formula. They are longer lasting than a usual lipstick meaning if you are like me and are constantly drinking water, you don't have to reapply them a million times a day. 

NYC, which is one of my favourite bargain brands, has come up with their own offering which are set to be released on the 14th September. I've been given a sneaky peak and play with them and I must admit they are fantastic. I love NYC for their lip products and eyeshadows- such great quality for bargain prices. Firstly, the lip lacquers smell amazing. They have a strong berry smell which is welcome as some of the lacquers I have tried previously have smelt very medical! Secondly, the colour pay off is huge (just look at the image above!). In particular, 500 Rockaway Ruby is a very strong true red which will be perfect for the upcoming A/W season. I also love 300 Madison Square Mauve which looks great layered on my numerous nude lipsticks. 200 Chelsea Cherry Blossoms really reminds me of NARS Turkish Delight which was one of my teenage (and Kim Kardashian's) favourites. The wear time on them is very good as a sole product and layering does not cause creasing or a horrible texture like others I have tried. They remind me very much of the Rimmel Apocalips but I prefer the texture of these as the Rimmel can be quite matte and drying.  Another great factor is that they retail for just under £4 making them one of the most affordable on the market. 

I urge you to try these out when they come on the market- bargain price but a real quality product. 

How Joan Rivers gave me confidence

I've never written a blog post about a person before and their role in my life. But tonight as I sit on my sofa, drinking a Lemsip with a throat that feels like glass, I've been reflecting on the life of Joan Rivers and how her life made an impact on me.

The phenomenon of celebrity is strange. The fact someone can touch your life without ever meeting them is odd. I never got to see Joan Rivers live. I was once in Vegas and missed her performing by a day. I was also too young to see her when she came to the Ulster Hall here in Belfast. If any of my blog readers have met me in life they will know I have a really big, larger than life personality. My friend recently described me as a walking, talking cabaret act. And that I am. All hand gestures and "darling" and "fabulous". 

There is a big bit of my personality that has definitely come from watching Joan Rivers whilst growing up. Even as I child I recognised how exuberant and over-the-top she was. I just thought she was divine. As I got older, I understood and laughed at her dirty jokes. Her humour was often controversial but she said she made fun of things so people could make sense of them and deal with issues. Her own sad times- her issues with her body image, her husband's suicide became part of her act and a coping mechanism. 

My personality, although huge, isn't all truly 'me'. And I suppose that's a huge part of me being a blogger. I am hugely showbiz. I've sang since I was five- what do you expect? When we were teenagers my best friend frequently couldn't cope with the two sides of my personality- this hilarious, smiley girl in front of her friends but quieter, more thoughtful and emotional when I was alone with her. My blog has hugely repaired my relationship with her. I get to be the big personality at events and in meetings. It is that confident girl that my blog is built on. It was that big personality that allowed me to stand at Stormont and speak in front of crowds about what is was like to have depression. Then I came home, got into my PJ's and I was the normal, emotional girl making a cup of tea and crying about what I had just told hundreds of people. 

Joan Rivers taught me not to have fear. To be ballsy. To swear when it's required. But ultimately, she taught me to have confidence in myself. The old saying "Fake it till you make it" is so true. As I sit here tonight in a week where my anxiety has literally had me in convulsions, I remember Joan and that sometimes, a girl just has to pick themselves up and keep on going. 

Bringing back glam

There was a bit of running joke when I was a teenager that I was going to turn out to be a WAG. I always had big hair, lashes, tan.... it was a huge effort but 15 year old me loved it. Lately, I've felt a bit of a return to being that girl. It takes a huge investment of time but I'm enjoying getting ready so much and I've been feeling more confident. Here are my three little 'go to' glam products that make me feel just a little bit more fab on a day to day basis.

Cocoa Brown Gentle Bronze
I am very picky with tan as I have quite dry skin on my body. I have been loving the Cocoa Brown Gentle Bronze formula as it is very moisturising. I have previously tried the other Cocoa Brown offerings but they just aren't for me. As I've stated before, mouse tans and I just aren't friends. The formula applies as a caramel colour and 1 coat gives a golden glow overnight. I've been applying this 2-3 times a week and thus far I've had no tanning mishaps. The tan also has no over-bearing scent. I've found it applies amazingly with my Glove Your Body mitt (You can read a full review here). 

Beyonce Heat Wild Orchid*
Firstly, the bottle of this looks so cute sitting on my dresser and matches my room perfectly! This has been a real "go to" scent for day to day as the summer fades away. The scent is sweet but still warm. With notes of orchid, pomegranate, amber and coconut water, the scent feels fun and flirty. It dries down to a much more musky scent with a more grown-up vibe. It is perfect for those in their late teens and early 20s who want to feel a little bit special on a daily basis. 

Charles Worthington Volume and Bounce Texturising Spray 
A key component of my glam routine has always been my big hair. I think flat hair is boring. I'd read a lot about this spray from fellow bloggers so I decided to test it out myself. Post blow-dry I spray a liberal amount of this in my hair to give some volume. It gives a good amount of root lift and hold.  It is very much like the different "dust" products on the market only delivered in a spray format. Just make sure not to go too crazy as you might end up with a white cast in your hair if you are dark like me.

Let me know the products that make you feel glam by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond or leaving a comment below.

*PR Sample

My top 3 A/W Trends for 2014

I've been asked a few times to share the trends to look out for winter. Any of the fashion magazines out this month will define this in more detail but these are the three wearable trends that I will be rocking this season. 

The colours to look out for
There are two huge colours this season- pale blue and grey. Just like last season with the pink statement coat, this season's "it" coat is the pale blue coat. I picked up one recently for a bargain £23 in Primark (it also comes in other colours!). Jumpers and trousers also look great in the pale blue shade helping to make you look like the perfect winter ice princess. In regards to grey, coats and jumpers in what could only be called "school jumper" grey have been very popular. The classic grey jumper looks great tucked into a skirt with a statement necklace for a night out or with a white shirt under it for a business meeting. 

My new pale blue Primark coat- £23!
H&M, £14.99

Texture and layering
Winter does always bring about the fur coats but this season sees an even heavier focus on texture. Fluffy cardigans, knits, teddy textures have all featured on the catwalks and have been filtering into all of the highstreet stores. Fluffy jumper layered with a fur gilet? Go for it. Just stick to a complementing colour palette like the aforementioned pale blues and greys. 

M&S, £69
Topshop, £65
The classics
The huge trend of the past few months of Normcore (essentially normal clothes like jeans and jumpers that make you look like a cool girl!) will continue into the winter months. I love this trend because it is all about very well made classic pieces. Good Chelsea boots, bretons, big scarves, well fitting jeans.... it's everything that you would easily find in Zara! Stick to a neutral palette- cream, white, navy, black and the pieces will see you right though to the spring.

Zara, £9.99
River Island, £45
So in conclusion- keep it simple, classy and chic. This season is all about "dressing well" rather than the indie and boho vibes we have seen in other seasons. Happy shopping!